HL Deb 11 March 1991 vol 527 cc9-10

2.59 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they propose to update the law on restrictive trade practices.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Hesketh)

My Lords, the Government have made clear in the White Paper Opening Markets: New Policy on Restrictive Trade Practices published in 1987, their intention to replace the present Restrictive Trade Practices Act by new legislation. A Bill will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time will allow.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. However, I am somewhat disappointed. I have a White Paper dated July 1989 although I understood the noble Lord mentioned 1987. I believe that the White Paper was issued in 1989. Is the noble Lord aware that that White Paper was generally acceptable to this side of the House, and I think to the Benches on my right, and that we were looking forward to relatively uncontroversial legislation because the 1976 Act needs to be brought up to date as soon as possible? Can the noble Lord give us some assurance that that is a high priority with the Government? One of the objects of the White Paper Opening Markets: New Policy on Restrictive Trade Practices was to bring the United Kingdom law into line with Article 85 of the Treaty of Rome in time for the 1992 single European market?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, we remain committed to a regime for restrictive agreements which mirrors closely the approach under Community law which the noble Lord, Lord Williams, mentioned. We are held back by the pressure of parliamentary business, but we remain vigorously committed to the introduction of new legislation.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, will the Minister explain what he means by "pressure of parliamentary business" in view of the fact that we are to have two weeks' holiday at Easter?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, restrictive trade practice is not a matter that I would want to pass on to the Whips' office.